This week it dawned on me that May and June are sort of a season of loss for me. Several significant people in my life have died during these months. While serving both as a church pastor and an Army Chaplain I often moved to new assignments and new homes in June. June became a time when I would say farewell to old friends.
This week we lost one of our members, Sam. He died suddenly this week. For his family — especially Sue and Garland — it is a time of profound loss.
Some of us went through another loss. My dear friends Ted and Alice lost a baby this week during Gina’s third month of pregnancy. Some of us here have been through that experience and know something about what it is like.
Erma Bombeck knew both the joys and sadness of having children. Some years ago she wrote, “I see children as kites. You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the
ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless — they crash — they hit the rooftop — you patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly. Finally they are airborne: they need more string and you keep letting it out. But with each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that
goes with joy. The kite becomes more distant, and you know it won’t be long before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that binds you together and will soar as it is meant to soar, free and alone. Only then do you know that you did your job.”
Experiences of loss make us feel like we are nobody.
I was thinking about Erma’s words, and I remembered what it was like to leave our only son, Mike, at college for the first time. It really felt like a huge loss for our family.
And that reminded me that I heard the one about the tavern near the college campus, a favorite of the students. As Parents’ Weekend approached, they posted a sign that said, “Bring your parents to lunch. We’ll pretend we don’t know you.”
One of the local churches countered with a signboard that read, “Bring your parents to church. We’ll pretend we do know you.”
But we are somebody. We are God’s children, Jesus’ friends…and for us Jesus gave his life. In today’s Gospel lesson we look at John 17. This is the High Priestly Prayer. It occurs right after Jesus last supper with his disciples. He has washed their feet and given them his last teaching for them. Now he prays to God.
His prayer is for four things. They all have to do with the Church…with those disciples who lived 2,000 years ago…with the Church as it exists today…you and me… we who grieve and know loss.
So today we look at Jesus prayer for you and for me…for the Body of Christ.
He prays that God will protect them from the evil one. Last week we baptized Billy and Janie. Before we baptized the children we asked the parents a question — Do you renounce all evil?
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Lately I’ve been asking what we are teaching our children. It is important to note that when we baptize children we ask parents about their commitment before turning to their children.
President Woodrow Wilson said, “If you wish your children to be Christians
You must really take the trouble to be Christians yourselves. Those are the only terms upon which the home will work the gracious miracle.”
Jesus prays for us — his children.
Jesus prays that God will be with us in the world.
When I experience loss I need to remember that. Julian of Norwich wrote: “All will be well…and all will be well…and all manner of things shall be well.”
Jesus has prayed for you — that all will be well with you.
Jesus then asks that the Church show the same oneness that exists between Jesus and the Father. This is a difficult one for us to understand. All churches — congregations and denominations — seem to be filled with divisions. It is Jesus’ continuing prayer for us that we will be one.
Then Jesus asks that we will have joy! This may be rather hard for us to understand. Jesus uses a kind of reasoning that turns all human reasoning upside down. It is God’s reasoning. Jesus prays that you and I have joy in the midst of all that pulls us in this world in which we live.
Jesus final request is that we be sanctified.
Sanctification is a word that we use too seldom. In fact, many of us may not even know what it means. Let’s all say it together: sanctification. It means purified or made holy. It is a process of transformation that only happens when we walk with God on a daily basis. It only happens when we consciously turn toward God and accept God’s love. Perhaps we can best understand sanctification from a human perspective in terms of discipline. It is the in the spiritual disciplines that we open ourselves to God. In the process God transforms us.
We all know about discipline. If you have ever gotten good at a sport or a game it has come about because of the discipline or practice. If you have learned a musical instrument you have spent hours of disciplined practice. The Army requiresa lot of discipline, and in turn it transforms people in many ways.
At one time, Brigadier General Sherian Cadoria was the highest-ranking black woman in the U.S. armed forces. She credited her success in life and in Army to the high moral standards that she learned from her mother. She said: “My mother is a woman with strong moral values. Once my brother, sister, and I went shopping, and someone gave us a penny too much. My mother made us walk the five miles back to town to return it. She said that at least one of us should have known better, so all three were punished. You don’t forget lessons like that. I didn’t have problems in the military with discipline, because my mom really was a first sergeant.”
That exemplifies discipline from a human perspective. From God’s perspective sanctification is a setting apart. Our life in God is a life apart from many of the things that tug at us as humans. It is a life set apart for being God’s son and daughter. It is a life set apart for living in God’s kingdom.
Today, my brothers and sisters Jesus continues to pray for us. Can you hear him? His last earthly prayers are for you and for me.
May we all be protected from evil.
May we truly love one another.
May you have true joy!
And may you be set apart — sanctified — service in God’s kingdom. Amen.